Most people use a GPS receiver to find their location, but a GPS tracking system is
used to find something or someone else's location. A GPS vehicle tracking systems is rapidly
becoming a necessity for companies which want to manage their fleet efficiently. And
some parents see GPS tracking as an electronic watchdog. But vehicles and people aren't the
only tracking subjects. Wildlife managers use GPS tracking devices to follow migration
patterns and oil companies use them to monitor major oil spills.
GPS Tracking System Basics
Although the tracking equipment used and the thing being tracked vary
widely, the components of a GPS tracking system are the same. Whether the
tracking device is monitoring a car or a child, the tracking system has
- GPS satellites which provide location information to GPS receivers.
- GPS equipment attached to the subject tracked. It calculates and sends its location to the base station.
- A wireless connection from the monitored subject to the base station.
- A system at the base station to monitor the subject's location.
Besides tracking the position of the GPS unit, other important information
may also be monitored. A GPS vehicle tracking system often includes sensors to
check the engine and other mechanical systems to ensure proper operation.
Wildlife tracking might include measuring changes in the animals' metabolism.
And scientists following large icebergs could get temperature readings and ice
melt rates along with the icebergs' location.
The wireless connection can be one of several types, depending
on the tracking requirements. For use in the city, a common radio wave
transmitter/receiver hookup is a simple low-cost choice. The equipment is
relatively cheap and the airspace used is free. But the downside is a lack
of bandwidth which limits the amount of tracking possible. Also, the
tracking data requires an analog to digital conversion which increases the
Another popular wireless choice for a GPS tracking system is
a cellular link. The availability of cellular communication both in and
out of cities is increasing every year to make this a reliable option.
But unlike radio, the connection isn't free, so the added cost
must be taken into account.
Satellites are used not only for tracking information, but are also used
to transmit the data to a monitoring station. And for large coverage areas,
nothing tops satellite communication. If the GPS tracking system needs to range
cross country, a satellite link is an effective solution. However, satellite
communication is still relatively costly, so the system must be efficient
when transmitting data.
Usually, to create a GPS tracking system, you buy GPS tracking devices
and pay a monthly fee to a data processing service. The service normally puts the information
on the Internet in graphical form, making it accessable in real time and whenever you choose.
Cell Phone GPS Tracking
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that all
cell phones have GPS capability as an aid for emergency situations. And because
of this, there are a number of companies who use GPS enabled cell phones as
part of their tracking system. Partnering with national wireless companies,
these systems can perform a dual function. Not only is the cell phone's
location remotely tracked, but visual or voice navigation directions can
be given to the cell phone's user. A properly equipped cell phone, or
sometimes a PDA with a cellular modem, and a monthly service fee make for
a simple GPS tracking system.
GPS Child Locator
As helpful as tracking freight or delivery drivers might be, nothing is
as important as parents knowing where their children are. Wherify Wireless
produces the most popular of these locators. The GPS tracking device they
make is small enough to be worn like a wristwatch. The unit connects
through a cellular link to the Internet. Parents are then able to see their
child's location online and be alerted if the child moves outside a
predetermined area. This GPS tracker is also capable of contacting 911
if an attempt is made to remove the device.
For older children or groups who want to stay in contact, there's
another possibility. The Garmin company makes the Rino Radio which is
a GPS tracking system combined with a handheld radio. This radio
automatically sends and receives GPS data to as many as 50 other users
at a time. So along with talking to others over the radio, you can
see each other's position with the unit's built-in display.